ESPN senior writers Bonnie Ford and Alyssa Roenigk take a deep dive into the past 40 years of USA Gymnastics, focusing on the infamous Romanian-born coaches, Bela and Martha Karolyi, and their controversial methods of coaching, their impact on athletes and the sport overall, and their connection to the scandal surrounding Dr. Larry Nassar.
The podcast features original, in-depth interviews with multiple gymnasts including 2016 Olympic Gold Medalist Simone Biles, 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist Jordyn Wieber, 1996 Olympic Gold Medalists Kerri Strug and Dominique Moceanu, 2000 Olympic team members Jamie Dantzscher, Tasha Schwikert and Alyssa Beckerman, 2015 US National Silver medalist Maggie Nichols, 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist Carly Patterson, 1988 Olympic team members Phoebe Mills and Kristie Phillips, as well as 1986 US National Gymnastics Champion, and author of Chalked Up, Jennifer Sey.
30 for 30 Podcasts, in association with espnW, presents Heavy Medals: Inside the Karolyi Gymnastics Empire, a multipart podcast series that takes a sweeping look at the influence of legendary Romanian-born coaches, Bela and Martha Karolyi, and, in turn, the transformation of USA Gymnastics over the past four decades.
For 40 years, as athletes came and went, there was one constant presence in Olympic gymnastics: the Karolyis. Coaches who towered over the little troupers of their sport. A married couple, and a power couple in the literal sense. Few people have wielded such vast influence in a single sport. Generations of gymnasts trained at their isolated ranch outside of Houston, where the Karolyis were champion-making teachers to some and tormentors to others. In front of the cameras, Bela was the bear-hugging giant who pushed his athletes to the limit and Martha (pronounced: Marta) was the stern housemother who demanded perfection. Since the 1970s, they’ve coached some of the greatest names in the sport, from Nadia Comaneci to Mary Lou Retton and Kerri Strug. With every gold medal, the Karolyis consolidated unchecked power, in many ways more powerful than the governing body for which they ostensibly worked. But in 2016, their world came tumbling down when the Larry Nassar scandal broke and exposed the culture of fear and intimidation the Karolyis created … leaving the gymnastics community to grapple with questions of the heavy cost of all that success.
The series is reported by ESPN senior writers Bonnie Ford and Alyssa Roenigk, and produced by 30 for 30 Podcasts’ Andrew Mambo and Meradith Hoddinott.